History of Condominium Ownership

A condominium is a residential property with multiple units in which individual units are owned by separate owners, and ownership of common areas is shared by owners of the individual units. For example, in an condo community, each owner would own their own unit while all the owners of the individual condos would own common parts of the building and grounds, such as the hallways, lobbies, elevators, staircases and outdoor walkways, swimming pools and clubhouses. A condominium association (also known as a “home owners association or HOA” typically manages this type of property. Owners share responsibility for the maintenance costs for shared areas, but are individually responsible for maintenance expenses of their own units.

Condominium Ownership Roots

The form of ownership which is utilized for condominiums was used by the Romans as early as the 6th century BC. In parts of Europe, the concept has been around for many centuries. French civil law tradition acknowledged condominium ownership as early as the 1804 Napoleonic Code, whereas the common law tradition in England dictates that real estate ownership involve land. The concept has existed in South American countries for at least two centuries. The first condominium law in the United States was passed in 1958, in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. It followed the 1948 Horizontal Property Act of Puerto Rico.

The housing shortage and urban sprawl that took place following the end of World War II, created a need for the more efficient use of land through high rise multi- family dwellings located in those areas where facilities for employment, education, recreation, and public services already existed. Apartment buildings were sufficient for renters, but soon buyers and homeowners also had access to ownership of such efficient housing. The first condominium property, called in the continental U.S. was built in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1960. This property was called “Graystone Manor,” and was originally intended to be a housing cooperative (Co-op). The Utah Condominium Act of 1960, which made it possible for Graystone Manor to be built as a condominium was authored and defended by Keith Romney. Romney came to be known as the “Father of Condominiums” and joined forces with Don Pihl to provide condominium project consulting services throughout the 1970’s.

Section 234 of the 1961 National Housing Act gave the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) the power to insure home loans for condominiums, which led to a widespread increase in the monies available for condominium purchases, and to adoption of new condominium laws by every state by 1969. Instead of extensive awareness of the condominium concept spreading from the U.S.’s large metropolitan centers, it came from south Florida. Developers and builders had learned of condominium life from the island of Puerto Rico and replicated it to provide retirement housing for moneyed retirees and revenue streams for themselves.

Today, high-rise condominiums and other types of condo communities exist all throughout the United States, offering home ownership, convenience and added amenities to hundreds of thousands of people.

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